San Francisco’s controversial proposal to ban circumcision on its November ballot has continued to draw attention around the country (and parts of the world). The bill would make it a misdemeanor crime to circumcise anyone under the age of 18 – with a penalty of one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
Furthermore, supporters of the bill have now attempted to propose similar ballot measures in other American cities. One of those cities is Santa Monica, CA, which also has a large Jewish population. It is not only the Jewish community which is up in arms over the proposed measure, but the Muslim community as well, as Muslims also practice ritual circumcision.
I will not attempt to rehash a response to the controversial bill, as others have already done so. For example, see a recent article by Rabbi David Wolpe or another response by Christian theologian N.T. Wright.
However, what has been even more interesting is the discussion over an anti-circumcision comic which many have found (including myself) to be seriously anti-Semitic. The comic, known as Foreskin Man, was created by Matthew Hess, the author of both San Francisco’s and Santa Monica’s anti-circumcision bills.
It is one thing to be against circumcision. It is another thing to take the anti-circumcision rhetoric to a new level as Hess does in his comic. The hero of the comic is Foreskin Man, the typical blonde haired, blue-eyed superhero who’s described mission is “to hunt down criminals who cut the genitals of innocent boys.” The reference here is an attempt to imply that circumcision is on a similar par as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), and an issue of human rights. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Furthermore, the villains of the comics are what has the Jewish community in an uproar – Dr. Mutilator and Monster Mohel. Monster Mohel, the arch-villain created by Hess is depicted in a black and white Tallis, dressed as an Orthodox Jew with the stereotypical hooked nose, peyos, etc. And he is always pictured with a blood thirsty, evil look.
A recent press release from the Anti-Defamation League blasted the comic for going too far. ADL’s Associate Regional Director, Nancy J. Appel, criticized the comic for portraying mohels as “rapacious, bloodthirsty, and bent on harming children” and noted similarities with blood libels, which accused Jews of ritually murdering Christian children for their blood (which apparently gives matzah its flavor). Appel also pointed out that “No matter what one’s personal opinions of male circumcision, it is irresponsible to use stereotypical caricatures of religious Jews to promote the anti-circumcision agenda.”
Many might think that this is a harmless comic book, and that the Jewish community is yet again making a big deal out of nothing. However, the subtle message and imagery is not so harmless. The essential foundation of the comic is the good Aryan superhero against the evil, blood-thirsty Jews who prey on innocent children. And the stereotypical imagery is only a further reminder of similar propaganda initiated in Nazi Germany.
What do you think? Is Foreskin Man just a harmless comic book, or something worth speaking out against?